Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
In learning about the history of America from the colonization to the reconstruction I decided to read The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass. Frederick was one of the very few literate slaves. He was an incredibly important character in American and African-American history. Though he was blessed with intelligence most slaves were not, he still lived the same kind of life of the typical slave.
Fredrick Douglas was born in Maryland; he does not know the date of his birth, as did most slaves. He never really had a chance to know his mother, only having seen her four or five times. Fredrick taught himself how to read and write despite it being against his slave-owners wishes. He could not let his knowledge be known to anyone except for other slaves. Fredrick saw his knowledge of words both as a blessing and a curse. White men were given supreme power over their black slaves and it corrupted their character.
Most African Americans of the early to mid-nineteenth century experienced slavery on plantations similar to the experiences described by Frederick Douglass; the majority of slaves lived on units owned by planters who had twenty or more slaves. The planters and the white masters of these agrarian communities sought to ensure their personal safety and the profitability of their enterprises by using all the tactics-physical and psychological-at their command to make slaves obedient. Even Christianity was manipulated in a way that masters communicated to their slaves that God had commanded them to obey their masters. People like Frederick Douglass who preached abolition of slavery, only had to nurture the already existing spirit within slaves to strive for freedom.
Only a tiny fraction of all slaves ever took part in organized acts of violent resistance against white power. Most realized as Frederick Douglass did that the odds against a successful revolt were very high, and bitter experience had shown them that the usual outcome was death to the rebels. Consequently, they devised safer ways to resist white dominance. For Frederick Douglass, it was clear that his way of fighting the power was to become educated so that he may better understand his situation. However, he described that knowing that: "wit…[was] the pathway from slavery to freedom." (Pg. 20) "…Reading… enabled me to utter my thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while [it] relieved me of one difficulty, [it] brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more I read the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers." (Pg. 24) The knowledge, which Frederick Douglass gained, did not free him from his horrible situation, but rather compounded his discontentment as a slave. It is hard to determine how other slaves were able to maintain a sense of individuality and worth, despite not having the opportunity or possess the resourcefulness to obtain the knowledge...